author, creative writing, writing

Things You Notice When You Print Out Your Novel

This week I printed out ‘Novel 2’ for the first time. It took me right back to early last year, when I printed out ‘Novel 1’ for the first time. I posted a blog back then sharing reasons to print your work in progress. This time I’d like to focus not so much on the reasons why you should print your work, but the things you’ll notice when you do.

Ah typos. How is it they’re able to crop up so often, even after several edits? Sometimes, when you’ve been editing on a screen for so long, you simply get used to your wrong spellings or other mistakes. Reading through your work in print is like looking at it through a whole new perspective, and allows you to notice these errors more easily. You can circle them in your red pen (or a different colour, if red looks too harsh!), and go back to edit them on screen once you’ve finished your print read through.
let's start fresh!

I thought I’d gotten better at spotting clichΓ©s, and perhaps I have. But again, when reading on screen there were words and phrases I was so used to seeing, I was blind to the fact they were either weak or overused. Something about having the words on paper in front of me, as if I were reading a real book, helped to spot unimaginative descriptions, and forced me to consider new ways to word these sentences, so that they were unique to my story or my character.
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Repeated Words
Ever read something and found yourself jarred when two words very close together are exactly the same? Yep. It really takes the reader out of the natural flow of words, and forces them to look back, thinking ‘have they already said this?’Β For example, I spotted that I’d used “waited” and “waiting” within the same sentence. Somehow I’d missed it before, but reading on paper made the proximity of those words glaringly obvious.
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Missing Punctuation
Again, I think it is easier to skim read when you’re editing on screen. You know the story after all, you picked the words and planted them in that specific order. And so it can be easy to miss sentences that are too long without a pause for breath. Reading your paper copy makes it much easier to spot your missing punctuation, and will help you tighten up your sentences.
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How Much You’ve Written
It’s not all typos and bad spelling and repeats of words and a lack of punctuation. Holding your words in your hands make you notice quite how much you’ve written. Sure, you can see the word count on screen, or you can scroll through the pages and watch them flicker all the way down. But seeing the thick pile of paper, feeling its weight, really gives you a sense of accomplishment. Your print copy is physical proof that you’ve written a novel, and it’s something you should be really proud of.
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What do you notice when you edit by putting pen to paper? I’d love to hear your experiences of printing your work, so drop a comment below.

Until then,
Keep editing!

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38 thoughts on “Things You Notice When You Print Out Your Novel”

  1. The biggest thing I noticed was chronology issues, and being printed out made it easy to physically shuffle chapters and write on different days to fix it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post, Meelie! Printing it out usually helps me to see where I need to break things up into paragraphs better. Other than that, it’s also everything you’ve listed here 😊.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Considering how long my story is, and that I consider myself an eco-friendly person, I’d not print it. Fortunately, all of this works for me when I convert it to Kindle format and read like this – there’s still the different font and size compared to a monitor and it allows me to spot most of what was mentioned in this post – but I also realize it might not work for everyone. I also had to come up with a reliable way to write down what/where the problem is so I can find it easily when I get back to the PC version.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Part of my process is to make a PDF of chapters and read through them, one per night, a few days at least after they were written. Usually I’ll start this after I’m halfway through a book so the early chapters are farther removed.

    But for those final typos, reading through while listening through audio files is incredibly effective. This usually happens a while after the book was released so it’s a very fresh look.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I mark for typos, etc., but also things I want to check/confirm. A print copy is great for marginal notes if something comes up, so you can keep reading without disrupting the flow. As you noted, some things you only see in a print copy. There’s so many things I can do with a print copy that aren’t easily done on the computer.

    Maybe it’s my age showing, but I always prefer reading on paper rather than on a screen. Admittedly, there is much that is done more easily on a computer, but for pleasure reading and final proofreads I will always prefer books.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The energy used to power your computer or charge your kindle is not recyclable, once that energy is used it’s gone. Paper is recyclable and upcyclable (I print on the reverse of previous printouts and once recycled paper is turned into toilet rolls etc., or shedded for pet bedding if you kiddies have rabbits) and most paper come from forests that are sustainably managed (for each chopped down a new one is planted) and if it wasn’t chopped down it would die at some point anyway so the eco argument doesn’t sway me.

    Nothing beats editing on a printed copy. But don’t limit yourself to a red pen. I arm myself with a range of highlighters – addmittedly the computer is on while I use the ‘find’ function for all those pesky words: that, had been, to be, was, were and so on – but I don’t look at how I’ve used them I highlight them on the printed copy and move on so can do this fairly quickly. I also use those mini ‘post its’ (7 different colours) and single out where the main characters appear – this allows me to check they appear where they are supposed to appear and not where they shouldn’t because their previous location makes it impossible. The post its can be reused to pinpoint mentions of time or any other detail that needs to be kept track of. None of these are possible on a screen.

    Having edited from front to back I’ll then go through it from back to front a good way to spot typos. I am dismayed at the number of typos and continuity errors appearing in the books of today even in traditionally published books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And having said I’m dismayed at typos I see there are several in my post – proving my point that you can’t spot them on screen πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  7. There’s something so special about printing out your manuscript and holding it in your hands. I have come to enjoy the experience of sitting down with a physical copy and a red pen and ruthlessly slashing away.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post! I noticed all of the things you mentioned, but I was also much more aware of the length of paragraphs and dialogue. A page and a half of dialogue can often be cut in half by deleting unnecessary words, or using tags effectively. I facilitate a writers’ group where participants read sections of their work aloud. It’s so effective in catching errors in logic, overuse, etc, that I recommend everyone read their work aloud. You’d be surprised at all the glitches you’ll still find.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ahh yes! Great post. These are all the reasons why I love printing out my MS. In fact, after a few rounds of edits, I reprint the latest version of my WIP on the back of the first print out (saving paper). I catch far more mistakes on a printed version.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Brilliant advice, M! I’ve definitely found printing out my manuscript (especially double-sided) really helps me notice any glaring errors I might have missed skimming through it on-screen. Plus shutting it away in a drawer for a couple of weeks and then revisiting it helps me look over it with fresh eyes. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s pretty daunting to deliberately stop yourself polishing up something you’ve spent months working on, but sometimes you just need some time to completely lock it away before revisiting it. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  11. All EXTREMELY TRUE things you find once it’s on paper. That’s why it’s good to edit it that way. Staring at a screen can cause your brain to be a bit melty and you miss a ton of things.

    Liked by 1 person

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